Saturday, October 31, 2020

SATURDAY ART: WFH in lockdown, by JD

Yes, I am one of those engaged in the newly fashionable WFH - working from home! But only because I am retired and no longer have a proper job. Working from home is not really working because I am not compelled to do it, I am painting pictures and it is better than working! So here are a few recent 'lockdown specials' (...not that lockdown has made a noticeable difference to my daily routine)

These were painted on canvas boards and are all postcard sized. And at £2 for a pack of six I could not resist buying lots of them from The Works who seem to have a permanent 'closing down sale' -

Friday, October 30, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Claude Debussy, revisited - by JD

 Claude Debussy has featured already in this series but he deserves another outing. We are currently surrounded by hysteria and panic so we deserve a tranquil interlude.

'The composer Claude Debussy was born in St. Germain-en-Laye, a few miles outside Paris, in 1862. While a pupil at the Conservatoire, he composed music that did not conform to the theory of the times. He contradicted his teachers by claiming that pleasure was the only valid rule of music, and that music could not be learned. Debussy was to become one of the greatest French composers, creating works which threw open entirely new musical horizons. This fascinating documentary gives deep insights into the life and work of Claude Debussy based on reports by those who encountered the great composer.'

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Greta T may not "vont to be alone", but ... by Nick Drew

(Ed.) Ironically. just as well-meaning activists are pushing pension funds to disinvest in oil companies, the latter could be leading the way to the advanced energy solutions the former would like to see...

Notwithstanding her much-trailed return to being an ordinary school student, Greta seems still to pout in public quite a bit.  Must be very tempting, I guess.  She may not vont to be alone.

So, asks our good host Sackers, what plans do her NGO handlers have for further exploiting her enormously successful global brand?

I'm rather repeating myself here, having written about the shift in climate-change response several times, and can't stress enough how the whole thing has now gone 100% mainstream, as of mid 2019.  The NGOs did their job too well !  As such, they risk being completely swept aside by Big Business / Big Banking, as it swings into full action mode.  Yes, we really get it, we're really doing it - now just piss off!   (We don't take advice from people in sandals.)

They never really knew how business worked, and they don't know how to intervene in a genuinely purposeful business dynamic such as is happening everywhere now, except as spectators and way-behind-the-curve cheerleaders.  They'd be gobsmacked if they saw the detail of what the heavy-duty, truly purposeful reengineering of whole, real, steel-&-concrete sectors of industry actually involves.  (I'm working on a hydrogen project right now - it's mind-boggling in its ambition.)  They have nothing to contribute! 

It'd be like a 1930's refugee, fetched up in America, who'd been writing to her congressman for a couple of years urging him to drop his isolationism and get the USA into the war.  Then along comes 1941-42.  What does Roosevelt or Ford or Bethlehem Steel or Boeing need to hear from her on the subject of how you build tanks and ships and aircraft by the thousand?  

I'm guessing the NGOs (the ones with the really devious world-government plans) were hoping, or planning, that their Big Chance was if business continued to dig in against change, and would need ongoing and detailed cajoling / direction / manipulation / hand-holding / external interventions of all kinds, by self-appointed green missionaries. 

Too bad, Greta - it'll be Goldman Sachs in charge, as ever.


[A version of this post first appeared on the C@W blog

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Central & South America NOT ruined, by JD

In recent comments someone said how the US had laid waste to Central and South America. Not quite true, the 'cono sur' (southern cone) has shaken off the US influenced dictatorships and in my experience is a wonderful place to live, particularly Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. 

I'll have to dredge up some memories, Pablo Neruda's house for example - First thing you see is a narrow gauge steam engine in the garden! Or maybe the Giles Gilbert Scott-designed phone boxes in Buenas Aires, exactly the same as those we used to have here. They are even the same colour. Or the surprising discovery that all three countries have hundreds of cricket clubs. 

The food is rather good too!

Meanwhile, please see this, reposted from Nourishing Obscurity (2014):


This is somewhere on the coast road to the north of Valparaiso. I wasn’t sure of the exact location so I searched Google maps and found it and borrowed a few screen shots –

A very spectacular location, I’m sure you will agree. In fact the whole coastline is spectacular – I feel a bout of nostalgia coming on 🙂

A few changes since I was there. They have some street lights now and the roadside caff looks as though it has been abandoned (blue in my pic but a sort of dereliction cream in the Google view).

The second image below shows the view from within the painting looking out over the Pacific. The cliff top at left is where I stood to take a few photographs which I have used as the basis for the paintings. 

I did a watercolour ages ago and it has been hanging on the wall for the past ten years; at least. I shall be doing a few more paintings. Can’t stop even though there are dozens if not hundreds on the wall here or just lying about the house. Why would I want to stop, anyway?


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

US election choice: emo or eco(nomic)?

America has gone emo. I think it's a generation thing - every generation wants a big fight: 1914, 1939, the Sixties, the Fall of Soviet Communism - I'd have said every 25 years or so, except that Western women are having their babies later now so instead of c. 2014 it was a few years later this time.

Not just America, of course. The PC madness has taken hold of our educational institutions here in the UK, from primary school right up to Oxford University; liberal thinkers are being cancelled (the revolution eats its children), zealots are foisting Nuspeak on us so that Bad Things cannot be thought, and so on.

But emo it is. The Age of Reason is passing, and with it the rational political institutions that kept quarrelsome factions in some sort of balance. The common currency of our time is the scream.

Here, for example, is an image posted on Facebook by a highly intelligent and educated friend across the Big Water:

The Presidential election (like the one in 2016) has become a choice between God and the Devil, and any dissenters are to be threatened into silence in the way that the girls in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' manage it, 'seeing' the demons in the courtroom itself: 

Funny, though, that some black people see no difficulty in supporting the Republicans, at least the Republicans as headed by that man of many sins Donald Trump: Thomas Sowell; Kanye West; Candace Owens, here most effectively rebutting attempts by old white men to misrepresent her -

Also funny that Hillary Clinton should have said recently that Republicans themselves don't want Trump:

"Most Republicans are going to want to close the page," Clinton says. "They want to see him gone as much as we do, but they can't say it publicly."

Now I don't know the lady personally, but I doubt that Mrs Clinton knows many ordinary Republicans personally either. I think her remark refers to Establishment Republicans, the types she'll have met, and I think I know why she said that: they're in the same game as the Democrats - self-interest and political survival. The difference is that the pseudo-Left throws scraps under the table to their supporters but never lets them sit on the bench with them; whereas the Right throw steaks at the faces of their supporters so they don't get eaten themselves.

And in came Trump the Disruptor, just when it had begun to dawn on the workers that their customary choice was between an enemy and a frenemy. For the choice is between two systems, only one of whch supports both mainstream political parties. 

The choice is between globalisation and national self-interest. The former is not sustainable for the West - the late Sir James Goldsmith (a billionaire entrepreneur) warned about this a quarter century ago, at the time of the GATT talks in 1994 , and again in 1996 .

For a time the prosperity of ordinary people was kept going because even if real wages were no longer rising, goodies imported from China and other Third World countries lowered prices so e.g. it was still possible to stuff children's bedrooms with Christmas gewgaws from Toys "R" Us; but personal debts rose, unemployment rose, government spending on the Welfare State (and its US equivalent) rose.

Trump's catchphrase 'Make America Great Again' grates with some who cringe at the thought of nationalistic economic imperialism; but more honestly it should be something like 'Prevent America Becoming Destitute'. I attempted to graph the way the system works, eight years ago, and some on the Right didn't like it, but I think it's essentially correct: America's rich and powerful jumped at the opportunity to arbitrage massive differences between the developed world and the developing world in the exchange-rate-adjusted value of land, labour and nonfinancial capital; actually it was a robbery of their own people. 

Lately the elite themselves have begun to wonder if they can survive the smashup of the society in which they live, hence their purchase of boltholes in e.g. New Zealand.

Is Trump a liar, cheat, swindler, sexist adulterer etc? Yes; though as people are learning what's on Hunter Biden's laptop some are wondering whether his crazy behaviour is not symptomatic of something that went seriously wrong in his childhood. In any case, close examination of Biden Senior is beginning to characterise him as a grifter slowly going gaga. 

Some of the American Right seem to me like those heartless, money-mad eighteenth-century English grandees who claimed compensation for drowned slaves as lost cargo, on their maritime insurance; but the more vocal element of the Left is shrieking about history and trying to rewrite it, rather than improving the lot of the underprivileged today; and as I say, the party that claims to represent the interests of the 'minorities' has a stronger interest in the latter remaining in a semi-wretched condition so that they will go on voting for benefits rather than a better life. Similarly in the UK, I've wondered whether, if it could, the British Labour Party would wave a wand to transform the lives of the poor and so make their political 'pals' redundant .

This Presidential election is a hard, hard choice, and I think it's significant that it's focused on personalities rather than macroeconomic and foreign policy. I fear that a vote for Biden is a vote for Business As Usual, with little right-on scraps thrown under the table to screaming supporters; with Trump it's whether the favours he grants to his Establishment crocodiles are outweighed by the systemic readjustments he appears to be engineering to prevent Joe Public wearing a barrel.

Sunday, October 25, 2020


'What started out as a way to label people as culturally and politically aware has now become evidence of how culturally and politically aware people like to think they are. If you feel the urge to call yourself and others woke, it’s less believable that you actually are.'

I really do not like the current trend in verbiage or right-on trendy-speak, most is used simply to go with what is considered woke, a word that itself is an invented trendy way of saying 'to be aware of'.' The original meaning of 'woke' was to be awake to social injustice - particularly injustices about race - but it is now applied to almost anything being pushed by progressives (another word that has been hijacked in the political arena to mean so many more things than it was originally used for.)

The wholesale misuse of words in general lessens their impact and muddies their actual meaning, yet the never-ending competition for being seen to be leading from the front in nearly all arenas of public statement and speech leads to examples of what years ago would have been described as twaddle.

Even slogans gain new users almost overnight: ‘build back better’, a UN slogan is now uttered by what seems every politician on the planet; much has been made of this as a sign of a world conspiracy to come about after the virus is eliminated or just goes away as it will like all other similar ones. Is it a sign of new world order? I doubt it but we do live in strange times and the world leaders all singing from the same hymn sheet gives that tack credence; or it could just be, more likely, they haven’t the wit or reasoning to come up with something of their own so just jump on the slogan bandwagon.

If critical race/gender/queer theory is unfalsifiable postmodern claptrap as anyone with a brain would testify, how come the liberal left and all the ‘woke’ agenda has gained traction?

In many ways it hasn’t; it is really no different from the old CND marches for the majority. It is just another coat hook to hang their credentials on and there are so many of them, all of them squeezed to the death for maximum effect.

'Racist', a word that had attachment to the apartheid era in South Africa and the civil rights protests in the USA, has become a word that has no longer any real meaning at all; it has been used as a derogatory term for anything and anybody who does not go along with the liberal left/Marxist agenda. A word that had a powerful connotation is now just an addendum in any conversation that is not going the left's way.

'Fake News' has run its course; originally a pointer to news that was believed to be false or inaccurate, it has morphed into a phrase that is used when anything is said that goes against your own views.

'Human resources, management of'; horrible phrase - likens people to rows of pot noodles.

'Cultural appropriation', a term used by BAME people who regard anything, African for instance, to be only available to them, the oppressed minority, while they appropriate all the advances of the country that adopted them, the dominant majority; 'cultural appropriation' only goes one way.

I’m not even going to bother with 'binary' or anything attached to the LGBTXYZTRS brigade; all I will say it has completely changed the way I look at rainbows!

Reading that is enough to make you wonder if anyone actually knows what cultural appropriation is - and do you care?

In certain areas there appears to be almost a competition to appear more woke than your peers. Some wonderful examples appear these days: this one from a sudden glut of statements by supermarket CEOs on how stockpiling was the reserve of the middle classes (the middle classes by the way in this country are among the lowest for remuneration in Europe) - anyway top of the pile was the one from the head of Iceland and Food Warehouse  who said that stockpiling was 'a middle class privilege and social injustice.' One short sentence but two woke battle cries: 'privilege' has just about levered 'racist' from the top spot of wokeness; and 'social justice' means anything these days' from the injustice that kids need food paid for by the general taxpayer and not the absent father to seeing that all those in the public sector are feather-bedded from any financial effects caused by the virus or that any person who is not white is automatically - regardless of their income or standing - moved ahead of the indigenous white population for almost everything now. Social justice, indeed.

Even schools and universities have fallen foul of the woke agenda. In San Diego policies that marked down students for not turning up, turning up late and failing to complete course work are now deemed racist and as the majority of the transgressors were from the ethnic groups on campus they are now having those failings moved to the students' citizen grade. Citizen grade? What is that in terms of achievement and employment? This will. according to the schools Vice President, help to amend the racism that these practices create. 'Racist' school for marking down students who fail on several levels, Jesus, how woke is that?

I wonder if future employers will be told how these students achieved their grades. Probably not, as they will almost certainly go along with this nonsense; they wouldn’t want to be seen to be lagging in the woke stakes.

The best example of the word soup created by the woke was this job advert for a diversity director for the Trussell Trust, an outfit that distributes food parcels. £62k is the going rate offered which one has to say equates to an awful lot of food parcels that could have been put together - which one would in normal circumstances have thought a priority for a charity dedicated to feeding of the malnourished; and where a diversity director fits into all this is your guess as well as mine; nonetheless it is a gem.

'Highly expert in the discipline, and able to clearly articulate complex concepts such as power, privilege, bias and intersectional injustice, you will ensure that our organisational perspective on these issues reflects the most considered and comprehensive thinking. The ability to identify and realise shared ‘quick wins’ that capture and signpost our direction of travel will be a distinct advantage. …'


'Diversity' is a late comer to this woke alphabet. Originally a word used in phrases such as a 'diverse opinion' or 'diverse elements', it is now solely for the push to include diverse ethnicities, or at least they would have you believe that. It is also a wonderful way to express desires for diversity that are at the least vague or beyond comprehension, the BBC  presenter Ellie Harrison has said that:

'So there's work to do. Even a single racist event means there is work to do. In asking whether the countryside is racist, then yes it is; but asking if it's more racist than anywhere else - maybe, maybe not.'

This woke attack on the fact that very few BAME people ever get out in the fresh air of our countryside has little to do with the other fact that there is absolutely nothing to stop them. We have a large RSPB bird sanctuary on the coast near us and hordes of people visit it (can I say 'horde' or is that like 'tsunami',  perceived to mean unwelcome large numbers of immigrants, that only people right of centre - itself a nasty place - appear to notice.) I have never on my travels ever spotted a person from a BAME background with a pair of binoculars climbing over a stile, and one way or the other it bothers me not one little bit. The attitude of the BBC presenter is that for reasons of wokeness they should be forced to enjoy the same countryside we do, probably on a quota system!

There is so much that equates to woke in what she says it makes your eyes bleed: not a single item of unique thinking, all from the woke playbook, and this is a woman who scarred her arms, not tattooed, to show her love for a man; mental.

Whitehall naturally is in on the act. It has spent £400,000 of our money sending staff on courses for having 'unconscious bias' i.e. everybody is racist but they don’t know it.

There are 180 diversity officers across nine Whitehall departments. This woke exercise would never have been revealed in the public arena but the scheme was to be rolled out for the palace of Westminster and naturally the MPs rebelled; they would have to have electric cattle prods used on them to get them into something the rest of civil service was being forced to go to. Never slow to be seen going forward and woke unless it affects them personally, it also took national headlines to shut the Commons bars down when everyone else was denied the same ‘privilege’  - 'there, I’ve done it, I am woke!'  

Or perhaps in the interests in 'fairness', another word used so loosely as to not be fair to itself, we should all stay indoors thereby creating, yes you saw it coming, a ‘level playing field’; yes, yet another phrase that the left use to mean all things to all men, though it never impoverishes those that uttered the phrase in an attempt to create the level playing field; that sacrifice is reserved for everyone else.

Elsewhere, 'no platform' has run its course as a woke phrase; 'cancelling' is the new buzz-word. Instead of stopping someone appearing at a debate, the person is now ‘cancelled’ before they are booked; at least it saves turning up and being disappointed. The only thing I can remember being cancelled was my library card when I failed to return a book.

It seems now that we are moving away from a single word that was used in wokeness: now, as with the above-quoted supermarket bosses, there is real competition for the most diverse of phrases, most of which need a translator; such as this from a NYT piece: 'the entrenched forces of white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalism' -  no, me neither, it’s pseudo-intellectual garbage.

Other words are constantly added to the list of those one should not use; in some cases you do wonder at the mentality of those who decide on the validity of same words. I saw that ‘hysterical’ should not be bandied about as it refers to emotional women who are not in a safe place; 'safe place' is another well-worked phrase that to me is a waste of space, and 'a waste of space' is a derogatory term for someone who is trying to reverse the results of capitalism or something; it all gets very involved.

Some I like just for the fun of it: a young criminal is now a ‘justice -involved juvenile’ - makes him sound like a court usher; 'minority enterprise development' is actually about racial quotas!  

The list is endless. Dictionaries now have lists that every year they have to make room for, whereas in the past a new word made front page news. I leave you with one we all understand, well all of us who have worked or do work: 'shared responsibility payment' - meaning taxes.

Corporations have taken it on themselves to be the arbiters of wokeness, telling customers that they will not stand for any form of racism and that they will do all in their power to see that diversity among the companies is achieved, not merely an aspiration. The BBC leads on that one with racial quotas way above the norm even now and advertising positions that only BAME people can apply for; they of course are not racist - all racism is reserved for white people; how woke is that? Peak woke, methinks.

'Woke'; the word, like so many others before it, has lost its way from the original black civil rights movement about being awake to events; along with so many words and phrases, it has been bastardised to mean anything you want it to. Now, rather than signifying an awareness of social injustice, it is used to suggest that someone is being pretentious and insincere about how much they care about an issue.

Word soup has arrived.

In fact so many words and phrases are being used up I fully expect cockney rhyming slang to make a come back: bottle, bottle and glass=arse=farce; why not? That’s what it all amounts to.

Grovellers en masse

The BLM movement, despite being roundly discredited as a vehicle for a Liberal-left/Marxist movement, enthralled thousands with its wokeness: the grovelling take-a-knee participants took that whole apologise-for-white-supremacy shtick to a new level of dumb.

Even the virus is racist: it has been suggested that it unfairly has more effect on BAME communities..

Let's not leave out ('exclude'?) religion... A rather wonderful example of the use of language for the purposes of obfuscation came up in the Hackney Gazette this week. The local council has decided that unless the area - Stamford Hill, which is one of, if not the, most orthodox Jewish areas in the country - starts obeying the restrictions it will be going into a local lockdown. (It's an area I know well, having spent my formative years growing up near there; the orthodox Jewish community is very tightly-knit with large families and basically does its own thing.) This is the sentence in question:

'Visiting friends and family could be banned, and faith settings and some businesses could face temporary closure.'

'Faith settings'? Certainly new to me, and a way of not actually saying what the faith was that would be closed down, though anyone familiar with the demographics of that area would know it meant synagogues. Still, by using a phrase that in normal circumstances means absolutely nothing the council leader has avoided any case of offending a particular religion and I suppose that was the objective; but 'faith settings'? Gobbledygook.

Can this word-warping continue? Undoubtedly: those who promote the language and direction of their various agendas have nowhere else to go; the race to the bottom has only just started.

Friday, October 23, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Ivor Cutler, by JD

Ivor Cutler (1923-2006) was an eccentric Scottish poet, singer, musician, songwriter and storyteller. He appealed to successive generations with his offbeat sense of humour and wonder at the world. In more than four decades of performing he attracted a band of admirers and followers that included such luminaries as philosopher Bertrand Russell, Beatles John and Paul, DJ John Peel and comedian Billy Connolly. 

The scope of his appeal was reflected in his dedicated following on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 - and many stations beyond. He appeared on the BBC television arts programme Late Night Line Up. Among the viewers that evening was Paul Mc Cartney who invited Cutler to appear in the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour (1967). Cutler duly found himself playing Buster Bloodvessel, the bus conductor who announces to his passengers, "I am concerned for you to enjoy yourselves within the limits of British decency" and then develops a passion for Ringo's large aunt Jessie. His first record, "Ludo" was produced by George Martin at Abbey Road studios.

"Imperfection is an end; perfection is only an aim." He believed that art was therapy. As a creator of work that was bizarre, unique, sinister, bleak, funny, touching - and sometimes achingly moving - it proved to be therapeutic as much for his fans as for its creator.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Trump is going to lose, by Sackerson

 How do I know? By listening to Scott Adams, who spotted him as a winner early in 2016 and up till now has been ready to spin events and statements in DJT's favour. Now, I feel, he's sidling away, dissociating himself, giving reasons to which, if he thought the tide was still running in Trump's direction, he would find counters.

The resistance to Trump has come from both sides, relentlessly, for four years, despite the fact that Orange Man Bad has not initiated and prosecuted wars like previous incumbents, and seems to have been instrumental in fostering a rapprochement between various Islamic states and Israel, for which he has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize (which the committee was never, never going to award him.) Oh, and Trump's understanding of how globalism oppresses the workers (how was it that the Russians abandoned Communism in 1989 yet the Western élite continued to cast them as the villains while handing the West's economies to the largest Communist state in the world?)

DJT's personal faults are on the surface for all to see, and it drives many peple mad to see how unapologetic he is. There is also - though this doesn't get much play in the personal abuse sh*tstorm heaped on him via social media and the largely Democrat-supporting news establishment - the traditional Republican right-wing agenda that to British eyes looks like the hard-heartedness of our eighteenth century aristos. 

Having said that, the Left has a stake in never improving the lives of the working class too much, lest the latter get on in life and become independent of their political semi-benefactors (remember how the Labour Party targeted grammar schools rather than private schools?)

Now here comes Biden, with his TV compère's grin; and an element in the Democratic Party that is looking to pack the Supreme Court and cancel the Electoral College, anything to perpetuate the rule of their faction, at whatever cost to the constitutional fabric of the country.

As HL Mencken said, 'Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.'

Friday, October 16, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Dianne Reeves, by JD

Dianne Reeves is a multiple Grammy Award winning jazz singer and a comment beneath one of the videos here describes her as a worthy successor to Sarah Vaughan. High praise and deserved in my view as she has a beautiful voice. She does not limit her repertoire to 'pure' jazz, Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain" has been given a jazzy makeover to good effect. Final video here is a very rowdy and tongue in cheek version of "Stormy Monday" with David Peaston.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Rupert Murdoch: quote of the day

Harold Evans, former Times / Sunday Times editor, giving evidence to Lord Leveson in 2012, admitted having privately described Murdoch as..

'evil incarnate, the very personification of it. He's had his heart removed long ago, together with all his moral faculties and his human sensibility.'

Murdoch had bought both papers in 1981 and moved Evans across from editing the Sunday title to heading the daily, but sacked him after twelve months. Even so, the above description feels like much more than simple long-standing resentment.

News Corp, of which Murdoch has been Executive Chairman since 2013, owns (among many other things) UK papers The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Times Literary Supplement and is a shareholder in the Press Association. In the US it owns the New York Post and Wall Street Journal.

Quite a lot to entrust to 'evil incarnate.'

Quotation found in Private Eye number 1532, page 13.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Roboteacher? That's not how people learn... by Paddington

In my 39 years of professional teaching and even longer coaching the martial arts, I experienced several 'innovations' in teaching, and observed many different styles of teaching, leading to some of the following thoughts:

There is such a thing as talent, whether or not it matches intelligence in academia. You cannot coach talent into someone. (Slide 9)

Ideas such as 'bug-in-ear' teaching (working from a script and pre-set collection of responses), or the 'flipped classroom' (watching videos at home, then coming to school to work with a teacher on problems) will never beat actual interactive teaching, which is a very human process.

There is a reason why we put the teacher at the front of the room, with the students facing them. They are, relatively speaking, the experts, and do know better. We are also a pecking-order species and respond to authority.

“Those who can't do, teach” is a crass way of expressing a small truth. Very often, those to whom a subject or skill comes naturally very often have no way to communicate that skill to others, because they have not struggled with learning it.

Many of the people that I worked with spent far more time in preparation for lectures than I did, presenting polished material in a clear way. I developed and scribbled on the board, making mistakes as I went. My students often did much better, and I was certainly faster, often completing the full semester of material a couple of week early. Many of my colleagues kept trying to have every student catch up, and ended up boring the accomplished ones, and still not educating the others.

Most of what is taught in Colleges of Education is pedagogy, with the concept that a well-trained teacher can teach anything, including material that they don't know. This is plainly ludicrous.

See also:

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Covid Update, by Sackerson

There is debate about strategies to deal with the coronavirus, but there is also debate about the facts. Obviously the more we test the more we are likely to find cases of infection; and then there is the question of which cases are to be regarded as serious, and in fatal cases how to decide what the main cause was. It may take a long time for experts to agree on how to interpret the data.

But it may be possible to get some indirect indication of the impact of the pandemic in England and Wales, where we now have ONS fatalities data up to Week 40 this year (2 October).

The average total of deaths from all causes in 2020 so far is 463,748; in the same period for the years 2014-2019 it was 409,438. That is, the excess mortality this year - the difference between the two - is 54,310. 

Within the weekly data, the ONS has been counting cases where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. That doesn't necessarily mean that CV was the principal cause, or even the trigger (as it were); but it's interesting to see that 52,592 certificates did mention CV, which is not far off the total notional 'excess deaths' - in fact about 97% of the latter figure.

There is a meme that doctors have been under pressure to put CV on the certificate to bolster the government's claims as to the threat of the virus; I don't buy that story as a general explanation of these figures. Ordinary flu outbreaks are already included in the 5-year averages; this excess is so large that it stretches credulity to claim that CV deaths are simply flu by another name.

Another way to look at the information is to see what proportion of deaths, week by week, have been certified as CV-related:

We all know that the UK government has had to balance disease prevention against the need to keep our economy going, and despite the measures it has taken there does indeed seem to be a possible early indication of a 'second spike' in CV-related deaths. 

The highest proportion of CV-related fatalities was in the week ending 17 April - just over 39%; this fell steadily to w/e 4 September (1.01%) and has now risen again to 3.23% for week 40 - the first week of the official 'flu season' that runs to week 20 of the following calendar year.

The c. 54,000 extra deaths so far are less than one-thousandth (0.097%) of the total population of England and Wales, so it is tempting (because of the inconvenience of health precautions) to minimise their importance; but that is to think like Stalin, who is alleged to have said:

'The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.'

What price are we prepared to pay to hold on to our concept of the value of human life?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: How charities skim donations and skimp on results, by Wiggia

The world of quangos:

  • revolving-door public and private senior positions
  • elevations to the Lords
  • placement MPs - ministerial jobs for MPs that have escalated in recent years, giving those so poorly paid a boost in income
  • the industry around enquiries, often described as Britain's fastest growing sector and ‘something we lead the world in’
  • the expansion in non jobs, diversity officers and the like which no self respecting outfit dare go without

... are all part of job expansion that produces little but keeps the unemployment figures down, at a financial cost.

All this is still going on: adverts in the press for these jobs in the public sector abound at a time when thousands elsewhere are losing their jobs through no fault of their own other than not being feather-bedded by tax payer money and public sector security.

Yet one sector has been hit by the Corona virus and its effects on the way people live and spend: the charity sector.

The charity sector has for many years now morphed from well-meaning ladies in village halls raising money from coffee mornings and individuals raising money by walking backwards to John o’Groats to raise funds to get treatment for an ailing child for example, into a multinational business intent on separating the individual from his well-earned crust under the guise of charity.

More, indeed - but not for the intended recipients

Very few of us do not give willingly to certain charities that we know about and support their aims, many even of the larger ones still operate as charities should with a basic workforce and the bulk of gifts going to the cause they support.

Sorting the real from the huge financial empires that so many charities have become is ever more fraught. Cynic though I am, I still left some money in my will to a couple of local charities that relied on direct giving to survive and did a great job with people who worked there for the satisfaction of doing a good job for those less fortunate. 

But even there you have to keep an eye on the way they develop - one I had bookmarked in my will was a small specialist local hospice that for years did wonders with what it gathered from the public and larger donations from local business and individuals. Until one day I saw that they had amalgamated with a much larger outfit that received lottery money and financial support from the government and local government, and of course with all that, under the umbrella slogan of 'bigger is better and we now have access to more funds and can give a better service', came the inevitable CEO  and entourage on salaries the previous incumbents could only dream of. How true the claims of improved service are is open to question as once again the business model puts positions with inflated salaries at the top of the agenda alongside the service provided.

Anytime that happens, I don’t give. So many of the big charities have extended well beyond their remit, and have political overtones. Charities like the RNLI  never had trouble raising funds for an outfit that had staff that crewed the boats for free, they always had sufficient reserves for any eventuality, yet even they could not be left alone: an opportunity was seized and the usual cabal of operating officers on big salaries moved into what must have seemed easy pickings, and with them came a political agenda that included teaching people to swim in Bangladesh - you can have an opinion either way on that but there is no way that is what the majority of donors want the RNLI to spend their donations on; but the RNLI took a predictable route in defending the millions now spent this way by inferring that anyone objecting was racist.

That alone would put me off donating but they compounded that by several incidents of applying rules on boat crews and a sacking in one case that were PC directives; this, on people the that crew the boats for free and know what the job is really about, not about the wishes of abacus operatives.

Many other charities have gone down similar routes. The scandal with the Save The Children charity in recent memory should have finished them, yet the size of the operation means they survive virtually unscathed (as have Christian Aid, Oxfam and Red Cross, to name just a few of the big charities that have been involved in scandals against the person in forms of sex abuse and the failure to use raised funds appropriately, either by directing them elsewhere or using them internally.) Despite the gravity of the charges, all they will admit to is a short-term moral blip; but again it did bring to light not just the odious nature of operatives living the good life and exploiting their positions, but also how far down the greasy pole the positions of largesse on public funds and donations have travelled: the number of employees on six figure salaries was staggering. This is still nominally a charity, yet now this one and so many others look like a branch of government, as indeed many now are, with the funding to match.

£20 billion is channelled into charities in this country through funding by government or as I like to call it involuntary taxpayer theft.

The UN itself is a charity sponsored by governments worldwide using taxpayers' money, yet the attitude of the organisation in recent years is one of a self-supporting nation and a bullying one at that. We all provide the income, they tell us how we should live, and again their record in far-off lands does not cover them with glory. I saw for myself the UN in ‘action’ during the Ethiopian famine when spending time in Kenya: for most of the personnel, all well-paid, their time seemed mainly spent drinking and whoring in upmarket hotels. The fleet of aircraft stationed there never appeared to leave the ground - the nice formation on the tarmac stayed that way. They were criticised then and have been ever since for inaction and wasteful practices.  

The Save the Children scandal reached the headlines not so much because of the unwanted sexual indiscretions (to put it mildly) of several senior employees but because one in particular was the husband of an MP who was murdered; that part of the story is a separate issue but it did keep the matter in the public eye for a very long time.

The Red Cross has always appeared to be a charity you could trust and yet the scandals worldwide just keep on coming, a conveyor belt of corruption and self aggrandisement:

- the list is endless.

Age Concern boss gets in on the act:

And do not believe that these now typical activities are reserved for the big boys, far from it: numerous cases of using a charity as a front for personal gain are available to see, since a charity is still a wonderful front for levering cash from well meaning citizens.

The first lines in the report are interesting in that only 10p in the pound went to the cancer sufferers. Many of the big charities are guilty of similarly small ratios. Their claim when questioned on this is that it needs an administration to run these charities efficiently and money has to be spent on advertising to get money in; well, at ten pence in the pound it would be better to go back to coffee mornings. The whole industry - and that is what it is - has become an employment vehicle for those who see an opportunity to fleece people.

Even celebrities who lend their public face to the support of charities come up short when they fail to research the charity they are supporting. Being paid (at least in fame and kudos) for the support, their public shaming should be enough to stop them doing it again but I doubt it: that cheque being waved is enough to get them on board. The story of course is that they are doing the charity a favour by discounting or waiving their fee for their appearance or image rights.

Some of the advertising does have an amusing side. Water Aid claims that clean water can be given to all of Africa for £3 a month, they have been saying that for decades, they must have collected enough for most Africans to have their own personal well by now but according to them the problem is just as bad as it has ever been. I am aware that part of the problem there is that those with standpipes fail to clean filters, so the tap stops flowing and the well is abandoned - so the answer is more standpipes!

A cuddly toy after a donation from the WWF is guaranteed to save snow leopards: this ad has been also running for years. With the money raised the very small number of snow leopards in the world could all have their own sanctuary by now, so where does all the money go? I think we know the answer.

Linking to big business is a route now favoured by many charities: this gives the businesses the cachet of being a caring one and opens avenues of revenue streams to the charity. As everything in the charity sector it comes with a caveat: Age UK linked with energy company Eon under the charitable act of giving elderly people who signed up cheaper energy - only it transpired that Age UK was getting a £41 kick back from each new customer signed. It doesn’t stop there, though of course all is claimed to be above board, 'nothing to see here', and despite investigations the gravy train rumbles on. Other Age UK scams here:

The Clinton Foundation requires several books to do it justice but here it will suffice to say the money raised by the foundation and the collaboration with the US government has done nothing for Haiti (the Clintons' beloved honeymoon spot) and everything for US businesses in the construction industry: the only evidence of anything being built is an abandoned port project. The Haitians remain as impoverished as before, in fact worse. A lot of graft has been going on there but this is all now par for the course; nearly all the money given has ended up back in the US.

Here is a different Clinton Foundation wheeze and more graft:

At a much lower level putting your old clothes in the ‘we collect’ bin at the supermarket may seem a good idea, yet even that small act of charity is fraught with theft and in the case of collections misplaced faith in the charity involved. It was believed by most that the clothes you gave to the Salvation Army would end up being distributed among those needy souls they serve well in other ways, but no more: like nearly all the big charities they collect and sell by weight to a wholesaler who then either sells again for his own profit leaving a small amount for the charity who you believed was making good use of the items. Even with the large number of people all these organisations employ they can’t be bothered to sort and distribute themselves so the biggest take goes to the wholesaler; not exactly what people had in mind when putting their bag out for collections.

Why my sudden interest in the workings of charity workings? Well, I have been aware of the charity scams as many have for years. That will-writing was what originally made me realize how difficult it was to leave money to the right people; but since then more little things emerged: the desire by charities to exploit every area for gain. The linking with business has produced the checkout waiver of any small change, saying 'we will give it to our designated charities' - but not really designated, as they are business partners. Amazon do it online; it is becoming common practice.

The clincher was the other day at M&S. When my wife was paying at the checkout she was asked directly if she wanted to give a pound to Macmillan Nurses, another designated business partner. I always thought 'chugging' was for the charity workers who approached you on the street, now it is cashiers being told (as they must have been) to do the job for them at the checkout. Cold calling, constant badgering letters and emails, and now checkout chugging; enough! I and everyone else should be independent in why and where they give money to charities. This is a step too far in what are already very murky waters.

No wonder charity giving is dropping. Using the pandemic as an excuse, some of them are pleading poverty. In many cases it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people; anything that reduces the gravy train based on the largesse of the uninformed public can’t be bad.

Friday, October 09, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: John Lennon's 80th, by JD

Yes, he would have been 80 on Friday. Where did the time go? It doesn't seem five minutes since I first heard the Beatles on Radio Luxembourg in late 1962. I can vividly remember the announcer saying - here they are John, Paul, Geo....and then being drowned out by hordes of screaming girls!

It is hard to believe that today would have been John Lennon's 80th birthday. Equally hard to believe that it is 40 years since he was murdered. And yet he still has a powerful, almost megnetic attraction to the point where the TV companies have devoted one channel exclusively to him and his music and probably stories both true and false about his life:

There are a lot of people who hate Lennon with a passion (see the reaction of left wing 'activists' to the song Revolution for example) and there a lot of people who 'worship' him, fans who often become besotted with everything about him and his music.

Both sides are wrong of course because the extreme reaction on both sides comes from those who have never met the man. You need to meet a person and spend time in their company to even begin to understand another person. Of the two opposing viewpoints, it is the besotted fans who present the more disturbing picture. It was a dedicated fan who murdered him and I have included below a video of Cesare 'Curt' Claudio, a fan who turned up on Lennon's doorstep hoping for who knows what but in reality he was unable to explain why he was there. Clearly a troubled young man but it illustrates the dark side of fame.

In time, all of the above will fade into the past but the music will endure and that is the important thing.

Cesare Curtis 'Curt' Claudio was a confused, vulnerable, shell-shocked Vietnam veteran (? - see link) who turned up on John's doorstep in Ascot in May 1971 and is featured in the 'Gimme Some Truth' documentary. He was convinced that John was sending him messages in his lyrics that were asking him personally to come and meet him. John and he spoke outside, and then John invited Claudio into the kitchen to have something to eat, after which he went on his way.

By way of conclusion it is worth watching this again.It is a brief interview from june 1968, recorded in the National Theatre in London. It was true then and is currently, in 2020, being shown still to be true, unfortunately.

John Lennon, The World Is Run by Insane People

Sunday, October 04, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: The Inexorable Demise of the MSM, by Wiggia


When I left school I got a job ‘in the print’, a loose term for a job with a union card that meant that at a certain age I was privy to the best paid trade in the country. 'Trade' is a bit of a euphemism as anyone with a union card had the opportunity to work in Fleet Street having been given a permit, to join the extremely bloated workforce and do very little, sometimes nothing and earn in one night what many worked two weeks or more for. It couldn’t go on and the stranglehold the unions had over the printing presses was finally blunted and then to all intents expunged by first Eddie Shah and the Rupert Murdoch. I got out before the collapse as there was no future I could see and so it transpired.

 A rare picture of the newspaper trains that left London for all points north
to drop the daily papers at stations for the wholesalers to collect.

I mention that because during that period, and it was a fascinating one, I had access to all the national papers on a daily basis and many magazines as well. I became adept at scanning them - the Sun took all of fifteen minutes to actually read! But even the others I could absorb in double quick time.

The difference then was there was a distinct difference in the way the different titles came across with the news: investigative reporting was normal and apart from a couple of red tops who had tits at the top of the agenda, all had something to say on the matters of the day.

For me the ‘Thunderer’ was hard work to get through and I favoured the Telegraph as the go-to newspaper with the added attraction that it had the best sports reports of any paper by far. The broadsheets still had influential proprietors with famous family names going back decades and a newspaper was a valuable asset to own. Even the editors had status: many were household names, as were many columnists.

It has to be remembered that at that time, the early Sixties, the circulation of these news sheets was considerable, not quite the pre war numbers as television was beginning to eat into circulation numbers, but the Daily Mirror still had the proud boast of the highest daily readership in the world at 10 million emblazoned under its title. Those figures were the zenith and since then the slide has been continuous. London had then, it must be remembered, three evening papers: the Standard, News and Star; now there is only one and it is a free sheet. The evening papers started to run quite early in the day and had several editions with a stop press for the latest news and share prices.

Fleet Street at night when fully working was an amazing sight with the presses worth admission for a view on their own, and of course all the papers apart from a couple were located in the Street of Shame.

Interior of the Daily Express building in Fleet Street

A pre-war front page from the Daily Herald who along with Reynolds News, 
the News Chronicle and others have long since stopped publishing.

The Manchester building of the Daily Express,
an even better exterior than the London one

All gone now and even the wonderful art deco Daily Express building serves another purpose; the digital age has destroyed that centre of the world of news.

The dead tree press still has a role to play but a much diminished one. If it were not for the digital age and the ability of computers to set out newspapers and the ability to use joint out of town printing works many would have gone to the wall before now. Some are on the edge anyway: the Guardian, which back in the day was a decent newspaper, is eating through its not inconsiderable reserves and asks for donations - that is not a long term model for survival; the Express, once a right of centre paper, is now owned by Mirror Group as consolidation was the only hope for survival; and so it goes on.

I stopped reading the Telegraph some years ago as they slowly but surely got rid of their writers and correspondents. The final nail in the coffin for me was when they were found out to have invented sports columnists and were using outside reports with fictitious names as the writers.

I occasionally get the Times, and even that one-time representative of all that was good about this country, a publication revered around the world, is a shadow of former times; the business section which is now half of the paper is more interesting than the news section.

Television has not escaped the turning to dross of things that were once good. I can openly say I remember the time when Channel 4 news was worth watching; now it is a platform for the sneering Jon Snow to castigate anyone and everything not of the Left.

Programs like Panorama were intelligent, informative and largely without bias; no more. We are inclined to read into the bias of the BBC more than we should but it is undoubtedly there and for the State broadcaster that is totally unacceptable in news reporting: the blanking of cultural issues (as they call them), the incessant reporting of any minor infringement of items, statements from the likes of Trump, as opposed to anything on the Left; the incessant war against Brexit... An independent source targeted the Today program in the six months following the Referendum and found that something like 80% of all the people they had on the program to discuss Brexit were 'remainers'; that again is simply not acceptable; imposing their views by the way they present them is simply not on, but what else do we have?

Well, the rise of Twitter was a salvation to a degree, but that and similar platforms have become a battle ground rather than a debating area. The split that now exists in our nation is magnified online, and further the people who run these online platforms are now themselves taking sides and banning people who have done very little wrong other than go against what seems to be the editorial line of the owners.

We see before us now the results of all this bias and selective reporting: a government that cannot put a foot right at the moment, and gives out conflicting data and directions, has hardly a question of note put to them. A decent press and media would have asked the obvious by now but no, they are as muddled as the government, and in the meantime, almost unnoticed by the majority, the country is going down the pan fast.

A good example was in a small piece at the back of the paper in the business section a few day ago: a think tank for financial ‘experts’ has suggested that negative interest rates could be a good thing. This is not the first time this has been voiced, but the bit underneath that suggests it would create a £25 billion black hole in pension funds should be a prominent article, as it affects so many with already plundered private pensions; but no, such details are to be, as Private Eye used to say (when that was worth reading) 'continued on page 94.'

As the late News of the World used say on its header, ’All human life is here.’ It was then; not so much today, only a very selected version.

Friday, October 02, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Tatiana Kabanova, by JD

Tatiana Kabanova is a singer and actress born in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy in 1957. Apart from that there is next to nothing about her on the internet. I have no idea who she is but she sounds like a reincanation of Edith Piaf.

The following information is a Google translation of part of the description beneath one of the videos: 

"In 1993, Tatiana turns to the "golden fund" of chanson - works from the repertoire of A. Severny, V. Krestovsky, Br. Pearl. She records her first songs of this style with the orchestra at the Leningrad Documentary Film Studio. It was these recordings that were first presented on the “Night Taxi” program on Radio Chanson."